OPINION: At the website aa.org.nz is a simple set of 12 questions with yes or no answers. Most readers taking the test would probably feel quite smug as they answer no with regularity, and a tinge of guilt at the odd yes.
But at the end of the test, it's revealed that anything above four out of 12 in the yes category suggests an alcohol problem. The "casual drinker" might no longer feel so smug at scoring three.
We wonder how many out of 12 the mother might score who was stopped at a Taranaki police checkpoint driving drunk with her babies in the car at 2am on Saturday.
Would it be more or less than the man who blew 470 micrograms per litre of breath after "one drink" on the same night and then blamed the police for ruining his life?
The None for the Road campaign which has run in the Taranaki Daily News for the past fortnight aims to reduce the number of drink-drivers on our roads, but we are well aware that, for a section of the community, the difference between sensible judgment and putting lives at risk is the first drink.
We have already reported that United States research estimates a drink-driver could offend between 80 and 2000 times before getting caught and that the police catch drink-drivers in Taranaki at a rate of more than two a day.
In an open and frank interview with the Daily News on Saturday, district court judge Allan Roberts underlined the fact that those who abuse alcohol over a long period were the same people he saw appearing before him.
"Seeing these people, just hearing their names called, I can look at them and say, ‘Yeah, you are back for drinking booze and driving a car again'," he said.
But those same people have no shortage of potential support to fight their addiction. It can come in the form of family and/or agency support.
Auckland's Harmony Trust is running its five-year-old One for the Road programme through New Plymouth-based Tu Tama Wahine.
Programme manager Alex Dawber says only 3.5 per cent of participants have received further convictions for drink-driving - a remarkable result for a 10-hour programme.
Those with alcohol problems are regularly confronted with messages offering help, such as the wide range of advertisements showing otherwise nice people getting drunk and into trouble at a pub or a party, and being offered advice by friends or family.
The None for the Road campaign is also designed to be an eye-opener for those who take their alcohol problems on the road. They do not have to look hard to find stories about damage caused by drink-drivers.
Judge Roberts lamented in Saturday's story that people did not seem to be learning. His comments were proved accurate that night.
Those who appear in court may offer their alcohol problems in mitigation, but they do not excuse their actions by any means.
Their failure, if not refusal, to address those issues turn them into potential killers when they get behind the wheel. For that there can be no excuse.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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